A rendering of the completed $4 million Smith Center now under construction at the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment in Freeport. Contributed / Wolfe’s Neck Center

Work is underway on a multi-million dollar research, education and training facility at the Wolfe’s Neck Center that will allow the Freeport nonprofit to diversify its programs, expand its offerings to local schools and get more done year round

The Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment has received $2.5 million in funding from the United States Department of Agriculture towards the $4 million project.

The Smith Center is being built next to the will be located to Wolfe’s Neck Center’s office and barn. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

Prep work at the site has already begun on the facility, which will be called The Smith Center in honor of the family who donated Wolfe’s Neck Farm in 1985. The Smith Center likely will be up and running by February or March 2023, according to Wolfe’s Neck Center Executive Director Dave Herring.

The 7,500 square-foot building at 184 Burnett Road will provide the organization’s largest indoor space.

While most of Wolfe Neck Center’s work is conducted outside, the indoor space with a large meeting room, classrooms, lab area and a teaching kitchen will enable it to add cooking classes for schools, for example, and host other programs year round, Herring said. It will also enhance Wolfe Neck’s Center’s ongoing research, which includes regenerative farming practices and soil health, the findings of which are shared with Maine farmers.

“We’ve been really challenged over the years by not having an indoor space to support our programming,” Herring said.


The nonprofit has been fundraising for the expansion since 2016, according to Herring, and the recent USDA contribution meets the center’s financial need.  He anticipates adding five new positions at the center in 2023 and 2024 as it “ushers in an era of program growth.”

That’s piggybacking on the growth in sustainable farming practices, which Wolfe’s Neck Center promotes. The sale of organic products, such as eggs and milk, rose 31% between 2016 and 2019 and there was a 17% increase in the number of certified farms in the U.S., according to the Census for Agriculture.

The Smith Center for Education and Research is named after the family from Philadelphia that gave Wolfe’s Neck Farm to the University of Southern Maine in 1985, after managing an organic beef operation there since the 1950s. Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation assumed management of the property in 1997 as a nonprofit community resource.

Education Programs Manager Molly Cooper said more education programs, including cooking classes, will be offered year-round at local schools to build stronger relationships with school systems like Regional School Unit 5, which serves Freeport and Durham.

“On days where there’s inclement weather or in the wintertime when it’s freezing cold, we don’t have the capacity to make those programs happen,” Cooper said. “It’ll create the opportunity to provide a space for people to learn more about cooking with the healthy foods we grow here and it’s going to be a good connector for everybody to come to.”

Wolfe’s Neck is the only organization of its kind in the area, although there are other organic farms in Freeport, including Winter Hill Farm, Laughing Stock Farm and Bessie’s Farm Goods.

“The opportunities that a facility like this will provide for our community, both in Freeport and in our broader agricultural community, are going to be tremendous,” Herring said. “We look forward to continuing to expand our partnerships with schools, community groups, organizations and businesses and to continue working on helping agriculture be more productive and friendly on the environment and help support rural economies.”

The Freeport center is one of 737 projects nationwide that the USDA is funding “to help rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before” according to a press release.

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